Analysis of Patients With Ventricular Assist Devices Presenting to an Urban Emergency Department

Ryan P. McKillip, MD; Anand Gopalsami, MD; Magdeline Montoya, MD; Gene Kim, MD; James J. Walter, MD; Colleen Juricek, MS; Eric Shappell, MD MHPE


Western J Emerg Med. 2018;19(6):907-911. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Introduction: Left ventricular assist device (LVAD) insertion is an increasingly common intervention for patients with advanced heart failure; however, published literature on the emergency department (ED) presentation of this population is limited. The objective of this study was to characterize ED presentations of patients with LVADs with a focus on device-specific complications to inform provider education and preparation initiatives.

Methods: This was a retrospective chart review of all patients with LVADs followed at an urban academic medical center presenting to the ED over a five-year period (July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2014). Two abstractors reviewed 45 randomly selected charts to standardize the abstraction process and establish a priori categories for reason for presentation to the ED. Remaining charts were then divided evenly for review by one of the two abstractors. Primary outcomes for this study were (1) frequency of and (2) reason for presentation to the ED by patients with LVADs.

Results: Of 349 patients with LVADs identified, 143 (41.0%) had ED encounters during the study period. There were 620 total ED encounters, (range 1 to 32 encounters per patient, median=3, standard deviation=5.3). Among the encounters, 431 (69.5%) resulted in admission. The most common reasons for presentation were bleeding (e.g., gastrointestinal, epistaxis) (182, 29.4%); infection (127, 20.5%); heart failure exacerbation (68, 11.0%); pain (56, 9.0%); other (45, 7.3%); and arrhythmias (40, 6.5%). Fifty-two encounters (8.4%) were device-specific; these patients frequently presented with abnormal device readings (37, 6.0%). Interventions for device-specific presentations included anticoagulation regimen adjustment (16/52, 30.8%), pump exchange (9, 17.3%), and hardware repair (6, 11.5%). Pump thrombosis occurred in 23 cases (3.7% of all encounters). No patients required cardiopulmonary resuscitation or died in the ED.

Conclusion: This is the largest study known to the investigators to report the rate of ED presentations of patients with LVADs and provide analysis of device-specific presentations. In patients who do have device-specific ED presentations, pump thrombosis is a common diagnosis and can present without device alarms. Specialized LVAD education and preparation initiatives for ED providers should emphasize the recognition and management of the most common and critical conditions for this patient population, which have been identified in this study as bleeding, infection, heart failure, and pump thrombosis.